“Caregiving is a calling, not everyone hears it”
To care for another person as either a professional caregiver or as the friend or family member of the person who needs care takes commitment, compassion, and determination. It is not an easy path to take. While caregiving is rewarding, it is also very challenging. So that’s why caregivers need to be prepared for everything that caring for the elderly and chronically ill people can bring.
Here, I want to talk about caregiving philosophies and best practices that focus specifically on caring for elderly and chronically ill people since both groups have unique needs.
It’s intended to help professional caregivers and friends or family providing care navigate the challenges they face to be better caregivers.
A Caregiver’s Role
A caregiver’s role is incredibly complex — Providing care to someone elderly, or struggling with a chronic illness is more than just making sure that they eat, have help with bathing, and dressing, and are taking their medications.
Caregivers are often one of the very few people who are with their loved ones, friend, or client throughout this entire process. Because of that, caregivers tend to play a role in keeping someone out of the hospital and at home where they feel most comfortable.
Before a caregiver can provide care to another person, they must understand what it is that makes for effective care. Person-centered care is a philosophy that promotes the participation of the person in need of care.
Instead of simply helping someone with just their physical needs, a person-centered caregiver seeks out the input of their charge to make sure they receive everything they need and want from care.
Important points from this philosophy include: —
#1. Shared Decision Making
For people who are elderly or chronically ill, it can be harder to make decisions because there is so much to think about and understand at one time. Sometimes, a client, friend, or loved one might feel like they have no control over the choices they make whether they be medical or personal.
Caregivers can play an important role in the decision-making process by making sure the person they care for has the information they need to make decisions that fit with their values and preferences.
#2. Coordinating Care
The health system can be overwhelming and so can the appointments with multiple doctors and other medical professionals. Simply keeping a list of the appointments including who the appointment is with and when they’re taking place might help the client or loved one feel more in control of the medical treatment process.
#3. Offering Support During Times of Change and Transition
Aging and chronic illness often involve a lot of uncertainty and change. Having caregivers who can support the person in need of care by anticipating change can help make these changes and any transitions easier to handle.
How to Be A Better Caregiver
Like anything else, becoming a better caregiver comes from experience and learning from what has or has not worked in terms of caring for someone. Caregiving is also a process and there are some key things to be aware of that help improve the level of care provided.
Never Stop Communicating
Communication is the key to being able to care effectively for the person in need of care. Without good communication, caregivers can’t pick up on important changes or anticipate potential problems. This is true whether the caregiver is a hired professional or a family friend or relative helping out.
Part of communicating effectively with the person who needs care is being a good listener. Of course, caregivers should listen to what their charge says. But it’s also just as important to recognize what they aren’t saying and be ready to listen when they’re ready to talk. In this way, caregiving is not just making sure physical needs are met but also providing emotional support too.
Learning how to talk with someone is also essential to effective care. It takes time to learn. But doing so can help foster a better relationship between the caregiver and the person who needs care.
A simple example is not yelling or using a raised voice solely based upon a person’s age. Instead, consider different ways of speaking concisely. A caregiver might need to speak slowly, clearly, and concisely depending on the circumstance. No matter what it takes, the caregiver that takes their time with someone to talk and listen about something will go a long way, especially in times of crisis or difficulty.
Be a Cheerleader
Handling aging and chronic illness are hard for people, especially because it involves change. Amid these challenging times, don’t forget to celebrate positive developments even if they are small. Cherish the good moments spent together or the minor improvements you observe in the day-to-day.
At some point, a caregiver will find themselves in a situation where they are unsure of how to proceed. Perhaps there’s been a change in medication and the person in need of care is exhibiting new behavior like increased tiredness. Or a caregiver finds themselves in charge of changing the dressing on a wound for the first time and is uncertain about how to do it correctly.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how to do something or what to do if something unexpected happens.
It may seem simple. But asking questions and gathering information is one of the best ways to improve the quality of care that a caregiver provides for their client, friend, or loved one.
Know When to Ask for Help
Caregiving is challenging — both as a profession and as something to do for a beloved friend or family member. It is easier than one might think to get caught up in being the person who does everything for the person who is chronically ill or elderly. But no one person can do everything.
So it’s important to ask for help as well as take advantage of opportunities for help as they arise. This could be as simple as arranging for a grocery delivery on a tough day or arranging for a ride to an appointment where it’s not easy to park.
Getting older or dealing with a chronic illness is hard on the person in need of care both physically and emotionally. It can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness.
One way a caregiver can help support their friends, loved ones, or clients, is to understand what their challenges and limits are. By getting to know this information, a caregiver will start to see certain things from their perspective. Having empathy for the person that needs care will help increase the quality of care and the time spent with them, and improve their life too.
Patience is another key to being a successful caregiver. Just as it is easy to get caught up in doing everything for a client, friend, or family member, it’s even easier to lose patience.
Take the time to think, especially when tensions or emotions are running high. The person in need of care is dealing with a lot of emotions and changes at any one time. So it is up to the caregiver to think through what to say. Be encouraging and supportive of this person, even when it’s really hard to do so. That’s usually when they need it the most.
Think About Safety
Safety is extremely important to caregiving and it takes two main forms. The first form is to make sure that the home of the person needing care is safe. Making the home safe involves making sure rugs, cords, and anything that either of you could catch afoot, walker wheel, cane, or wheelchair on is safely secured. Clear paths of furniture or other items to minimize injuries or falls. Having rails and grab bars properly attached to stairs, near toilets, bathtubs, and near the bed is important to prevent falls. Following directions for administering medications and minimizing choking risks by serving food in an easy-to-consume way also ensures safety.
Caregivers also need to make sure they are aware of emergency planning procedures in case a disaster or other emergency occurs. This involves making sure there is sufficient food, water, medications, and supplies set aside or available at any given time.
Being physically safe is the other part of safety that sometimes does not occur to caregivers in the process of providing care. But it’s important for both parties. Learn how to properly lift and transfer the person in need of care. This does not necessarily mean doing so alone either. It may take a second person to help lift, transfer, or turn a person in need of care to prevent accidents or injury from occurring.
In some cases, equipment like a lift or a ramp is required to ensure safety. Don’t be afraid to look into proper procedures, ask questions, or ask for help.
Final Note — Caregiving is a Journey
Caregiving is a challenge — But it is not something that anyone, whether a professional caregiver or a family friend or relative, should take on alone. This guide is intended to be a starting place in terms of how to be a good caregiver. But it’s certainly not the only resource out there.
Talk to other caregivers of elderly and chronically ill charges and learn from their experiences. Take classes and read books on caring for the elderly and chronically ill. All of these things, combined with the experience of caregiving will help you be a better caregiver.
Thanks for reading and have a nice day!